Friday, August 13, 2010

Roger Federer gets sweet revenge on Berdych in Toronto

Don’t know who wanted it more Friday night: Roger Federer or the enthusiastic pro-Federer crowd at the Rexall Centre.

Don’t know who had more to lose: The crowd desperately wanting Federer to remain alive in the draw at the Rogers Cup or the once almost-perfect Federer fighting valiantly for his international relevance in the tennis world.

It was something to see, something unforgettable. Maybe not a match for the ages but a match for the Canadian ages.

It was Federer at his best, and his worst, and then somewhere in between. I saw it. Not sure I believed it all. Not sure I understood it all.

“Thank you guys, you made it so worth it,” Federer told the crowd after the match. “It was an incredible atmosphere.”

It was that trying Friday night. It was that dramatic. It was that up and down, emotional, with Federer so alive and in control in the first set, so average in the second set, so seemingly done in the third set, trailing 5-2 in games, and right until the final point of the third set tiebreaker, which went to a players’ challenge, no one knew the epic two hour, 40-minute quarterfinal match was over.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime match for a once-in-a-lifetime player, with Federer hanging on to beat Tomas Berdych 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5) in 160 minutes of tennis.

For the fans it means the top three players in the world have all advanced to Saturday’s semifinal, and assuming Novak Djokovic won his quarterfinal match late Friday night, which was expected, that would mean that for the first time this year in any tournament the top four players in the world — Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Federer — were alive to play in semifinals.

That should make today one of the memorable days in the history of Canadian tennis. But it will be difficult to top the drama of Friday night.

This is why you want to see the best in the world, the legends, the athletes who really matter. They invent ways to win. They write stories from the impossible.

Federer won the first set almost methodically Friday, holding serve, breaking once, winning 6-3. Then Berdych started to find his power game late in the second set, breaking Federer’s serve for the first time in the 12th game, winning the set 7-5.

The third set was from the tennis museum of the hard to believe. In the third game, Federer led 0-40 with Berdych serving. He couldn’t win the game. The next game, he lost serve to trail 3-1. At 5-2, with Berdych in the lead, Federer looked tired and finished. The crowd would have none of that, and a service break in the ninth game meant the match would be decided by a tiebreaker.

Even the tiebreaker was ridiculously unusual. Federer won the first four points. Berdych won four of the next five points, looking he had again stolen momentum back.

Berdych tied it up 5-5. And two points later, Federer was advancing and Berdych, the Rogers Cup party pooper who knocked Nadal out four years ago, was somehow going home.

“Berdych,” the crowd inappropriately chanted in the tiebreak, “are you nervous?” He wasn’t. The crowd was.

But the raucous Toronto crowd carried Federer home. At the end of the night it was hard to tell whether Federer was excited, relieved or exhausted. Hard to tell if he’ll have anything left for Saturday and Sunday.

Toronto Sun

The match was just as the Toronto Sun describes it, and more. In short?. Total madness!.

I knew that with Berdych it was bound to be a roller coaster (given the man has beaten Federer the last two times they played most notably at this year's Wimbledon.).

But I certainly didn't expect to be treated to so much drama.

Especially since Roger came out of the gate playing like he had something to prove, firing on all cylinders and winning the first set with relative ease.

At 5-2 in the third set I was honestly this close to turning off the match.

Thinking Federer would need a miracle of epic proportions to make it through this.

Good thing something told me to keep watching (well that and when it comes to Federer I'm a total masochist lol).

A champion like Federer is nothing if not resilient. Just when all seemed lost he was able to find that extra gear.

Although I will admit that at 5-all in the tie-break my computer screen was dangerously close to being thrown out my window.

And I guess the old adage of Federer winning a match after winning the first set still holds true. This win could be a sign of good things to come for the U.S. Open.

It certainly sends a clear message to all those media doubters out there, Federer is here to stay and he's not going away anytime soon.

As the article points out though, it'll be interesting to see how much gas Federer has left in his tank for tomorrow night's semi.

Djokovic won in straight sets so he'll have a bit of an advantage over Federer in terms of energy.

On the other hand if they play in the day time Roger will be a shoe in (Djokovic doesn't deal well with humidity).

Roger has always had better conditioning, so I'm giving him the edge. Onward to the final!.

As much as I enjoy watching thrillers like this one I'm rooting for an easy straight sets win tomorrow.

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